Zoomanity Group, one of the leading companies in the park industry, is hosting a series of "Dinner in the Dark" events this November.
Last Saturday, I had the privilege of being one of the visitors of Zoocobia Park Zoo to experience this much-talked about dining event.
The zoo is located on top of Sacobia Valley in Clark, Pampanga. It's name was the combination of the words "zoo"anacobia". The name of Zoocobia’s three adorable owl mascots: Zooc, Cobi, and Bia, was derived from Zoocobia.
In addition to the park’s informative animal exhibits and taxidermy displays, Zoocobia offers a variety of other opportunities to make your visit memorable, from enjoying camel (yes, you read that right!) rides to feeding bearcats and long-tailed monkeys. It’s an ideal weekend getaway with loved ones, young and old.
Zoocobia's animal displays and archaeological activity boxes
One of Zoocobia's owl mascots, the Philippine Eagle Owl
The Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines has a roster of celebrity donors, including actress Heart Evangelista.
My brother and I’s favorite part? The Zooc Ride! Zoocobia is the only zoo in the Philippines to offer gravity-powered cart rides.
Experiencing the Zooc Ride!
But the night would not be complete without the real reason for our visit.
Dinner in the Dark is a special dining event that challenges its diners to re-evaluate their other senses and table manners, not only in blindfolds, but in pitch darkness.
The concept is to raise awareness about blindness and turn the tables on society’s attitudes to disability. One will be eating for a cause as part of the proceeds will be donated to the Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines.
For this dinner, we put our faith in our visually-impaired guides from Eye Bank Foundation. They became our eyes, leading eight people in a conga line into the dining room, clutching at each other’s shoulders.
There were no lights, and a blast of chilled air greeted us when we entered. Some of us found ourselves bumping into chair legs as we attempted to find our seats.
As a huge lover of food, I wondered if not seeing the meal or its presentation would affect my appetite and overall enjoyment. After much awkward fumbling to find my bottled water and missing plate of dessert, I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to bring an actual blind date here.
Just like any Filipino dining table, conversation ensued, making this unique experience seemed so natural and easy. It was nice listening to everyone talk while we all self-consciously attempted to eat without so much mess. It felt just like having a normal dinner with friends or family, except that all of us were wearing blindfolds.
The ultimate challenge was to guess what each dish was. The starters was easy –macaroni salad. There was also a generous helping of warm mashed potato. The meat, however, was the trickiest. It tastes like chicken, but I couldn’t figure out how it was cooked. Rough around the edges… Creamy around the center… There is fun to be had in putting your fingers all over the plate, feeling the different textures of the meat.
I was so hungry I managed to wipe my plate clean.
When everyone was finished, the lights were flicked back on. I was happy to know our table survived without too much spillage. We reflected on the overall experience and agreed that eating in complete darkness was tough work. Some realized that they take their sight for granted, at the same time praising the blind for having to do this every day.
We capped the night off with the Night Owl Show, the park’s latest attraction. With satisfied tummies, it was the perfect treat. Be ready to be entertained and swept away by the members of the indigenous tribes and the zoo's wildlife with their variety of performances.
Everyone should experience eating in the dark at least once in their life. Invite your friends and family! The experience is definitely one for the books.
Catch the last leg of this special dinner offer (including pre-dinner orientation) on the following dates on November 21 at the Residence Inn in Tagaytay, and on November 27 at Zoocolate Thrills in Loboc, Bohol.
For tickets and more information, please contact the Zoomanity Group at (02)8899824-28, (02)8957142, 09158904728 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributed by Bianca Padilla